Upgrade needed

In yesterday’s edition of Barbados TODAY we published a two-page spread highlighting some of the most dangerous road junctions in Barbados, comprising photographs as well as comments from the police.

Given the volume of traffic on our roads today, all road users have to be exceptionally alert at all times if they want to arrive at their destinations in the intended state. There are lots of individuals who show little tolerance or sympathy for other road users and so contribute to the chaos we so often see.

However, the number of road design weaknesses that exist all over our island, coupled with the high volume of traffic for which our roads were clearly not designed, make for one dangerous mix. Driving today is no simple task.

Today’s driver in Barbados now must pay attention to all kinds of indicators that in a better developed road system would not tax his capacities to such an extent. For example, given the high volume of “blind corners” where there is absolutely no pavements for pedestrians, any motorists who sees walkers scampering to get out of the road ought to go immediately into defensive mode — some large vehicle that has not yet reached his line of vision must be approaching from the opposite direction.

If you are driving in one of our urban corridors and you see a large number of school children rush off in a mad dash, again you switch immediately to defensive mode — a ZR van with pounding music and a driver with no thought for anyone else using the road must be approaching — and it could be from any direction.

Our drivers are also forced to use a number of intersections, where each use literally amounts to dangerous driving. How else do you describe the multiple situations where side roads join main roads mere feet from corners and it is impossible to ever make a clean entry or exist without the driver on the main road braking hard to avoid a collisions. But you don’t have a choice since you live in one of these side roads and must enter and exit at least twice each day.

Some years ago the Ministry of Transport addressed the major problem of motorists and pedestrians competing for limited space on Highway 7 between Hastings and Oistins, but today one of the most dangerous roadways for pedestrians remains one of the businest, Highway 1. Between Black Rock and Speighstown (Holetown excluded) sidewalks are as scarce as a home visit by a politician outside of an election campaign.

That there are not more accidents that result in injuries and deaths along this long stretch of highway where Bajans and tourists alike compete with buses, minibuses, trucks and cars to complete their daily routines, is nothing short of miraculous.

What is needed is for Government to see the need for corrective work as priority and seek the appropriate approval of funds in Parliament to achieve it. We know from previous transport ministers that major road works on Highway One, which would most likely include the badly needed sidewalks, would have been tied to the long-mooted West Coast Sewerage Project, but if that multi-million dollar undertaking can’t be executed in the immediate future, then the smaller sum for road safety should be seriously considered in the interim.

Yes, we all can be more cautious on our roads. We can all be more considerate. We can all drive more defensively. We can all determine that we will not be in so much of a hurry. But when all is said and done, there are a number of structural challenges that attitude changes will not correct.

If a road is not wide enough to accommodate two large vehicles side by side along with pedestrians, then it can’t. If pedestrians have to walk from point A to point B where there is no sidewalk, they don’t have a choice. If your “gap” is a mere two or three car lengths from the corner, you will always run the risk of someone smashing into your side when you enter or exit — attitude can’t change that.

What will lessen or eliminate the danger is a well thought out programme of upgrading these dangerous features we battle daily.

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